A major freight distribution and logistics company has been fined half a million dollars after a worker was crushed to death by falling pallets.

Toll Networks (NZ) Limited was also ordered to pay reparation of $118,020 for emotional harm and consequential loss in addition to payments totalling $105,000, which had already been made to the victim's family. Costs of $6030 were ordered.

The company appeared in the Auckland District Court today, Worksafe said in a media statement.

The victim, a "much-loved father and grandfather", died when the pallets fell while being moved from a train wagon by forklift at Toll's Onehunga site in September 2016.

Advertisement

He was standing beside the forklift when the pallets fell as the driver reversed.

WorkSafe's investigation found Toll hadn't identified the risk of a pedestrian being hit by freight falling from forklift prongs, and that its pedestrian safety system relied on administrative controls that were ambiguous and contradictory.

The company was charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act with failing to ensure the health and safety of workers. The maximum penalty is a $1.5 million fine.

WorkSafe investigations and specialist services deputy general manager Simon Humphries said pedestrians and moving plant need to be segregated to avoid tragedy.

"This was a much-loved father and grandfather whose death would not have occurred if Toll had effective controls in place.

"Administrative controls like rules and procedures are simply not enough, pedestrians need to be segregated from forklift activity."

WorkSafe respected this was a workplace that was constantly changing with many moving vehicles, plant and personnel, but more needed to be done to keep workers safe, Humphries said.

"Fixed barriers to separate people from moving plant don't work in every workplace, but a temporary barrier and warning signage would have kept the victim outside of the dangerous area and alive."

Toll Group managing director Michael Byrne said the company deeply regretted the incident that led to the death of co-worker and colleague Paul Darroch.

"Toll pleaded guilty to the charge brought by WorkSafe. We acknowledge the pain and loss
this has caused to his family, friends and co-workers.

"Personally, and on behalf of the company, we continue to extend our sincerest condolences to Paul's family."

Since the incident, further safety improvements had been made to
ensure the risk of anything like it happening again was reduced, he said.

• Information on healthy and safe work in the transport, postal and warehousing sector is available here.